When the chance to test the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air came up, there was only one rider we wanted to put on the shock. Arthur Gaillot is our local suspension setup guru, and also happens to be an absolute ripper on the trails. For a bit of background on Mr. Gaillot, check out Cam McRae’s two-part article HERE and HERE. We’ll leave it to Arthur now…
Cane Creek is an innovative bicycle suspension and component manufacturer from North Carolina, USA. In 2005, Cane Creek partnered with Öhlins (think cream of the crop motorcycle suspension manufacturer) to develop the Double Barrel shock, which uses “Twin Tube technology and four way adjustability” per CaneCreek.
In a nutshell, Twin Tube creates constant recirculation of oil within the shock. Additionally, the complete range of damper adjustment is externally accessible, without having to modify the internal valving. Easy access to this much range of adjustment can be a benefit or a curse for the end user. Thankfully, Cane Creek is expanding its recommended base tune database, which is now available on their website.
Constant recirculation and quality of manufacturing has proven to ensure reduced wear on oil and internal parts with a performance level that stays consistent throughout the length of the service interval. This technology is no marketing gimmick: Cane Creek’s Double Barrel Coil (DBC) is a proven shock that when properly set-up and paired with the right frame, will outperform other stock coil shocks available in North America today.
Not the sleekest looking shock, but function prevails over form. Considering the Double Barrel Coil’s performance, I am quite willing to overlook the shock’s visual proportions to rightfully assess its performance.
When Cane Creek set out to develop the Double Barrel Air (DBA), the goal was not to replace the Coil but to offer an air-sprung variation that provides alternative ride characteristics. The idea was to create an equally performing shock at the same price point, leaving the feel of air versus coil as deciding factor for the end user.
As both shocks are deemed equally capable, Cane Creek allows users to determine whether Coil or Air is best suited to application and preference. In light of this, the Double Barrel Air will be tested back to back with its Coil counterpart.
For most users, the weight difference will also be a consideration when purchasing this product. How much weight saved using a DBA instead of a DBC will depend on the size of the shock and what spring rate is used on the coil shock alternative. In this case a comparable Double Barrel Coil of the same length and stroke will be set-up with a 450lbs spring. The weight savings for this application only is about a pound, or 434 grams.
The Nomad takes an 8.5″ x 2.5″ shock. In this size, the DBA weighs in at 528 grams compared to the DBC’s 962 grams with a 450 lb spring. That’s just less than a pound of difference, mostly in the spring itself.
The following features are specific to the DBA (versus DBC), and were designed as such to provide lighter damping characteristics to accommodate the air spring:
- High speed and Low speed adjusters
- High speed poppet springs
- Damper tubes
- Main piston shim stack
- Main piston
Outer air can can be rotated at will to provide easy access to the air valve on various frame designs. In the Nomad’s case there is ample room for the shock pump’s head to reach the valve. For other frames this features is barely a luxury.
Like the DBC, the DBA provides the following external adjustments:
- Low speed compression
- High speed compression
- Low speed rebound
- High speed rebound
Cane Creek provides its own tool to reach the four external damper adjusters. Changes to the low speed adjusters are accounted for in number of clicks; high speed adjusters, in number of turns.
Additionally, the profile of the air spring can be changed thanks to air can volume spacers. The outer can of the shock simply slides off and the air can spacers sit between the inner and outer can. This allows the user to steepen the air spring curve or simply to make the air spring harder to compress at the end of the stroke.
Proper all terrain testing. The Double Barrel Air is designed as an alternative to the Coil, not as a lighter duty component. Testing grounds for this review will reflect this.
Other characteristics of the Double Barrel Air:
- Air seals can be serviced without disassembling damper.
- Nine sizes available, from 2” to 3.5” stroke.
- Due to the large main air piston and large air volume, lower pressures will be used to achieve same sag numbers as with other air shocks on the same bike.
The Double Barrel Air will be tested on a 2012 Santa Cruz Nomad paired with a 2012 Fox 36 Float. In parallel, a Double Barrel Coil will also be used on this bike to assess the characteristics of each type of shock, as intended by Cane Creek. The Nomad is a worthy testing platform as it exhibits neutral suspension characteristics that will provide a ‘clean slate’ for both shocks to be evaluated on.
The test platform, a 2012 Santa Cruz Nomad. The Nomad has a neutral suspension platform, proven geometry, and is enough of a bike to take the Double Barrel Air through some demanding terrain, while still being able to assess the qualities of the shock for trail riding applications.
The purpose of the review will be to:
- Assess the overall performance of the Double Barrel Air.
- Create real world explanations of the five available adjustments and clarify how they are inter-related.
- Assess the functionality of the five adjustments and how useable they are in modifying the damper and air spring’s characteristics.
- Shed light on how the air versus coil spring feel translates to the trail and how both type of springs provide different riding traits. Help answer the question: “Which shock might be better for you and why?”
- Assess the reliability of the product in demanding conditions.
- Assess the value of the product (price / performance / durability / cost of maintenance / spare parts availability).
More chunk, more data in the bank. Given settings and how the shock reacts to different scenarios on the trail are closely monitored. With five adjustments available externally, changes in small increments to the damper and air can volume are key.
The test shock currently has over eight hours of trail time. Ride impressions, and initial report, to follow in the next article.
We couldn’t be happier with our choice to have Arthur review the DB Air. His suspension expertise is invaluable in demystifying and tuning such a complicated piece. Do you have any questions for Arthur? Speak below…